FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – For the first time ever, the United States is hosting the Paralympic qualifiers for goalball and Judo. Those qualifying competitions will take place throughout Fort Wayne. Tuesday night, Parkview Field hosted an international crowd for the Welcoming Ceremony for the athletes.
The ceremony began with the Voices of Unity Youth Choir performing. Then came the athletes parade where teams, representing more than 40 countries were introduced. The more than 600 athletes walked around the infield at Parkview Field waving to the crowd before taking a seat in the stands.
“We’re ready to work hard,” said Canadian goalball player Amy Burk. “We’re ready to show that we belong in Tokyo. If I can pass anything on from my 15 years of playing to the younger athletes then I’m obviously more than welcome to do it.”
Burk is competing to be in her fourth Paralympic games. The top two men’s and women’s teams will advance to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Competition lasts through July 9th st Turnstone, Indiana Tech and the Grand Wayne Center. Competition organizers aid they will take volunteers until the last day they are needed which is July 10th.
“So, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Stasha Carrasquillo, Chief marketing Officer for Turnstone. “It’s a very exciting sport, and not only can the community come out and watch the event, the community can also jump in and be a part of this historic event as well. We’re still accepting volunteers all the way through the end of the event. You can sign up online at our event website and get in and have an even more intimate experience meeting the athletes, watching it more up close and personal as a volunteer with the event.”
Competition is not the only thing organizers hope to see during these qualifiers. The plan for Tuesday night, especially, was to welcome the international guests to Indiana properly.
“A Hoosier is a person from Indiana that will be the most hospitable person in the United States, maybe even in the world,” said United States Association of Blind Athletes Executive Director Mark Lucas. “Hoosiers are super friendly people who will go the extra mile in ensuring that you have a good time.”
Lucas is looking for more out of these qualifiers too.
“We want to inspire the nation and inspire the world,” Lucas said. “By coming out and watching the competition you become inspired because you see blind athletes competing at their highest level and you think ‘a blind person can do anything.'”
Lucas went on to say he believes there will be a blind driver in the Indianapolis 500 one day.